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Dash cams – putting you in the picture

Using a dash cam to record the view of the road and traffic ahead can help reduce your insurance premium. Picture: pe3check/123RF

Using a dash cam to record the view of the road and traffic ahead can help reduce your insurance premium. Picture: pe3check/123RF

pe3check/123RF

Will having a dash cam fitted to your car protect you in the event of an accident? Could it lower your insurance premiums? Will it damage your battery? All these questions answered and more.

Dash cams are usually sited fixed high up on the windscreen, behind the rear-view mirror. Picture: PADash cams are usually sited fixed high up on the windscreen, behind the rear-view mirror. Picture: PA

Dashcam usage in the UK is at an all-time high – sales of these pocket-sized movie-makers have surged by 600pc in the last three years, according to retail analyst GfK, as they become cheaper, smaller and easier to use.

It’s believed around three million motorists in the UK now use a dash cam.

Road safety expert Sandra MacDonald-Ames, writing in Good Motoring – the quarterly magazine for GEM Motoring Assist members, said: “Dash cam devices have been popular in the commercial sectors for fleets of vans and lorries, along with emergency vehicles, for a number of years. But, until recently, their high cost has kept them out of reach for most motorists.

“A surge in popularity, and big steps in technology, have led to a price drop, and a reduction in size, so they are now affordable for most of us. Properly positioned, they won’t restrict visibility and they are readily available online and on the high street, with prices starting at around £25.”

Fitting a dash cam to the windscreen of a car is very simple. Picture: NextbaseFitting a dash cam to the windscreen of a car is very simple. Picture: Nextbase

She explained that insurers like the clear and irrefutable information a dash cam provides.

“If you’re a safe, conscientious driver, a dash cam helps protect your no-claims bonus, as well as guarding against dangerous drivers, road-rage incidents, ‘crash-for-cash’ scams and even minor car park knocks.”

But is it actually worth your time to get one fitted? What benefits could it bring to your everyday driving – and what problems could you face with one in place?

Here are answers to some commonly-asked dash cam questions.

What is a dash cam?

A dash cam or in-car camera is a small video camera, designed to capture footage of the road ahead on a constant loop.

They’re usually set up for high-definition (HD) video, coping especially well with night driving and headlamp glare, and are designed to be put in place and left alone until the driver needs to access the footage.

Dash cams can range from around £25 for a basic model to more than £300 for the very latest, packed with sophisticated features and capture super high-definition video.

Where’s the best place to fit one?

They’re usually sited high up on the centre of the windscreen, behind the rear-view mirror, but ensure it does not obstruct your forward vision. Some also have rear-facing sensors for use in the rear window.

Will dash cam footage protect me in an accident?

Dash cam footage can help prove blame in a crash – not particularly useful if you’re at fault and trying to convince your insurer you are blameless. However, if it’s simply your word against the word of an at-fault driver, dash cam footage can prove you right and save the claim from being marked as 50/50 blame.

Most insurers will accept dash cam footage as a record of a collision, and it can be used in court.

Is it worth spending more for a top-spec dash cam?

Your needs and usage dictate how much you should consider spending. Generally speaking, the bottom end of the market is populated by lower-quality, Far Eastern imports. They work fine in theory, but they’re often too low a resolution to capture number plate information, for example, and tend to work poorly in low light.

Spend above £60, or so, and you should be able to get a dash cam which records in HD and offers good low-light performance.

Other features can be nice to have – such as WiFi for easy data transfer, a selection of different mounting points or smaller size.

Will a dash cam lower my insurance premium?

Some insurers offer a discount – typically around 10pc – for dash cam use, others do not and some may offer a discount but not advertise it. Call a few insurers and ask if they will offer a reduced premium for using a dash cam.

Will a dash cam flatten my car’s battery?

Not if you fit it correctly. Dash cams run off 12-volt power in the car – gained either from the car’s cigarette lighter, or hard-wired into the vehicle’s power grid via the fuse box. Either approach should see the dash cam turn off with the car’s ignition.

If you’d like a level of protection even while the car is switched off, look for a dash cam with a dedicated ‘parking mode’. This uses motion detection and the camera’s built-in battery to film short snippets if it detects movement – ideal for capturing potential vandalism or car park bumps.

How do I fit a dash cam?

At its simplest, dash cam fitting is just a case of attaching the camera to the windscreen, plugging the power cable into the 12-volt socket and setting off. Hard-wire kits are available, which tend to piggyback off a fuse in the fuse box. Alternatively, a specialist auto electrician can do a professional job.

Regardless, the installation should ensure the camera has a good view of the road and the cable is hidden away and won’t interfere with your driving.

How does it store footage?

Typically, a dash cam continuously records footage through the windscreen either on an internal memory or removable card, such as an SD card. When the memory fills, the camera automatically overwrites the oldest files. You should be able to set it up then leave it until you need it.

Can I share my footage of an incident with police?

More police forces are accepting dash cam submissions showing dangerous driving, driving without due care and attention, using a mobile phone, not wearing a seat belt, jumping a red traffic light, crossing solid white lines and other offences where the driver is clearly not in proper control of the vehicle.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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